Saturday, September 10, 2016

Advances in medical technology require the Govt of India to amend the PCPNDT Act

The PCPNDT Act was passed in India in 1994 and amended in 2002 with good intentions. It was framed in order to prevent gender selection, control female feticide and balance the sex ratio. At that time , the major technology which was being used to determine fetal gender was ultrasound scanning, and the Govt of India started monitoring all ultrasound scans.

Sadly, the fact remains that the Act is outdated because medical technology has moved on ! The Act now needs to be updated and amended because it is now possible to determine fetal gender by testing the mother's blood.

NIPT ( non-invasive prenatal testing) technology  is readily available in India today .  This is a simple and cheap test, which just involves taking a blood sample from the mother when she is  8  weeks pregnant. The lab then separates the fetal  DNA ( cell-free DNA) from the maternal blood, and does a genetic analysis on this fetal DNA .

This is a non-invasive test, and is extremely safe, reliable and accurate. While it was first developed to screen the fetus for genetic diseases such as Down syndrome, it can also be misused to determine the gender of  the fetus.

If the Govt was serious about controlling female feticide, then it should insist that all pathology labs should be registered as Genetic Laboratories under the PCPNDT Act. They should be made to fill in Form E of the Act, every time a blood sample is drawn from a pregnant woman.  We need strict monitoring to ensure that these blood samples are not being misused for gender determination illegally .

Section 8 of Form E of the PCPNDT Act has a heading for maternal blood, and all blood tests should be reported and monitored as well ! Why is this loophole not being plugged ?

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